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Former TV reporter calls Kurtis to investigate after bank took away late mom's cash rewards

Former TV reporter calls Kurtis to investigate after bank took away late mom's cash rewards
Former TV reporter calls Kurtis to investigate after bank took away late mom's cash rewards 03:33

NEVADA COUNTY -- Retired KXTV reporter Dan Adams spent 28 years uncovering injustices for Sacramento viewers. He says he's now facing one after the April death of his 98-year-old mom, Virginia.

"My mom was a wonderful woman," he said.  "She always had such a great time with everything that she did. Lived a long life; 98 years old. And kind of the life of the party, to be honest with you."

He says his mom was a loyal bank customer, opening an account with First National Bank of San Jose seven decades ago, and sticking with them when they changed to Bank of the West in 1970.

"There was never a late payment on this account for years and years and years. And this is the way the Bank of the West treats its customers."

As Dan was handling her final bills after she died, he says without notice Bank of the West closed her account. He called the bank about the unused $474 in cash-back rewards his mom earned on her bank Mastercard. He says they told him those rewards are gone.

The bank's rules for the program do state, "If you voluntary close the Account or Bank closes the Account for any reason whether or not the Account is in Good Standing at the time of closure, all Cash Back Rewards will be immediately and irrevocably forfeited."

Dan knows it would have upset his mom.

"She would be totally ticked off to think that she was a customer for decades with this bank and for them to do this to her. Should be livid."

We brought the circumstances to longtime consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky of Consumer World.

"I think it's awful. I think it's nasty. I think it's unfair, but it's probably legal, unfortunately," Dworsky said.

He thinks a recent class action lawsuit against Bank of America over revoked cash-back rewards when they closed accounts could have an impact.

"So, if the consumer wins in that class action, that's going to send a very strong message to other banks," he said.  "They can't pull this kind of thing anymore."

After repeatedly reaching out to Bank of the West about Virginia's $474 about this practice, a spokesperson replied, "The bank has no comment."

To Dan, it's simple.

"The bank owes it to my mom's estate, to her account."

And after getting us involved, and complaining to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he says someone from the bank called and apologized, and agreed to reinstate the money his mom earned, which he says turned out to be more than $500.

He thinks the lawmakers should ban the practice of taking away the cash rewards people like his mom earned.

"Most people don't even know about this until they become victims like we do."

Dan also says the Bank of the West representative claimed they are now having discussions about the future of this policy. 

Bank of America tells us it's working to get the class action case against them thrown out, saying the customer suing them had her account involuntarily closed, for reasons they didn't share.  We did find its policy does have a section on what happens to these rewards if someone dies: "...if the card account is closed in connection with a death or incapacity of the card account owner, cash rewards eligible for redemption may be redeemed if an authorized representative of the estate, as determined by us, requests cash rewards redemption within 57 days of an account closure. Whether cash rewards are eligible for redemption depends on the final status of the account, is subject to the account being closed and paid in full, and is in our sole discretion. Cash rewards will only be issued upon request and in the name of the deceased primary cardholder. In the event redemptions are mailed, they are sent in the name of the deceased primary cardholder and to the address we have in our system of record for that person. These redemption provisions do not apply to jointly held accounts where there is at least one surviving owner of an account. • all redemptions are final once processed. • cash rewards are non-negotiable, and cannot be redeemed for any benefit except those cash rewards designated by us."

The lesson here? Use your cash-back rewards as soon as you earn them. Don't let them store up.

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